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Maybe Packers still can achieve immortality


Ioana from Orlando, FL

Are Graham and Gronk changing the way the tight end position is seen?

No, Kellen Winslow Sr. did that way back in the "Air Coryell" days. Winslow was used as a big wide receiver. Up until then, tight ends were in-line blockers and deep-seam receivers. Winslow was flexed from the formation and used in ways that were unconventional for a tight end, mostly because he wasn't a tight end, he was a wide receiver. In coaching terminology, receivers are X, Y and Z. X is the split end, Y is the tight end and Z is the flanker. The main consideration for coaches involved in the passing game is determining who's on the line of scrimmage. Those players are the ends, and it doesn't matter whether they're split or tight; what's important is that those players bookend or cap the formation. I would ask fans to think of receivers in the same terms, X, Y and Z, because tight end is not accurate if that end is not tight to the formation.

Michael from Manlius, NY

From "Ask Vic" day one, you said a possible lockout would possibly erase a Super Bowl hangover. Don't you feel like the lockout had caused a reverse effect on the defending Super Bowl champ?

I'm not sure what you mean by a reverse effect, but I do believe the lockout helped the Packers avoid a possible Super Bowl hangover because the lockout leveled the playing field for everyone. Teams coming off a Super Bowl appearance usually have less time to recover and less time to prepare for the start of free agency and the start of a new league year. Emotionally, I don't think they fully turn the page until the next training camp, which means they never really dive into OTAs the way other teams do. Well, we didn't have a March free agency period; it was pushed back to July-August. We didn't have OTAs, so nobody's rookies got a jump on anybody else's rookies. In short, I think the lockout gave the Packers and the Steelers extra time to recover, which they wouldn't have had in a normal year.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

Can you talk a bit about the difference in footwork Lang mentioned in his position switch?

I don't know exactly to what he might've been referring, but it might be the difference between setting or sliding. An interior lineman sets or sinks his hips in pass-blocking. A tackle often has to slide to the outside before he can set. That slide-step technique is a tricky dance step. Tackles work on it all the time.

Eric from Hartford, CT

On the Thursday pregame, Colts owner Jim Irsay talked about being eight million over the salary cap. Can you explain how it is possible for a team to be over the cap? I thought if a team was over the cap, they didn't play.

Again, I don't know the exact reference, but he might've been talking about something called "cash over cap." In other words, he might've been referring to real money he spent in signing players, as opposed to that money being amortized over the life of the players' contracts and being pushed out over future caps. There's real money and there's cap money. Real money that is spent in excess of that year's cap is referred to as "cash over cap." Most teams are "cash over cap" this year because we have a new CBA that promoted new spending, and the cap really didn't jump much.

Greg from Westerville, OH

Being an attorney has made me very conscious of semantics. As such, many of your readers have accused you of sarcasm when, in fact, you are the master of irony. Irony is defined as "the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning," and you are certainly an expert at that. Sarcasm is really only "harsh or bitter irony," which is something you don't engage in because I have never detected bitterness in your answers. Keep the intellectual barbs coming and continue to keep your tongue firmly planted in your cheek. You are greatly appreciated.

I just learned something. Thanks.

Rob from Oshkosh, WI

You say our defense has already found its identity. What about the 2006 Colts defense that stunk it up during the regular season but turned things around in the postseason? Any chance our defense does the same?

That Colts defense turned it around for a reason: Bob Sanders returned to the lineup, which changed the identity of that Colts defense. Can the Packers defense experience a sudden identity change in the postseason? Yeah, it can happen. I saw it happen with the 1974 Steelers. It was a very good defense, but a little scheme change for the postseason turned a very good defense into one of the greatest defenses of all-time: Defensive line coach George Perles turned Joe Greene sideways and, thus, invented the "Stunt 4-3." Nobody could run against it in the postseason. Hey, maybe Coach Capers has something up his sleeve. We'll see.

Otis from Pearland, TX

What is your favorite Christmas carol?

Dean Martin singing "White Christmas," or Dean Martin singing "Silver Bells," or Dean Martin singing any Christmas carol. I put his CD in the car thing the day after Thanksgiving and I don't take it out until the day after New Year's.

Will from Kenosha, WI

What is the difference between a good player and a great player?

A good player plays great in the regular season; a great player plays good in the postseason. All of this regular-season stuff has been nice, but soon the one, true season will begin and the game's great players will emerge.

Corey from Richland, WA

Merry Christmas to you and "Team Ketchman." My sons will be glad to see a Packers jersey for each under the tree this year. A win on Christmas night would be a fine complement. What gift are you most looking forward to giving this year?

I bought my wife a tile and grout steam cleaner and I can't wait to see her face when she opens the box on Christmas. I saw her looking at one in the store; she didn't see me but I saw her. Oh, is she gonna be surprised.

Mikayla from Cedar City, UT

After the loss Sunday, someone said to me they will never have the 2007 Patriots record. I told them yes, they will, if they win the rest of their games. Do you think the Packers will win everything again this year?

I don't know the answer to your last question but I'm intrigued by what you've written. Here's what I mean: If the Packers win the rest of their games, they would finish 18-1 and as Super Bowl champs, which means they would join the 1984 49ers and the 1985 Bears as teams to have won 18 games and the Super Bowl title. The '84 49ers and '85 Bears are often mentioned in the greatest-team debate. Hmmm. Maybe the Packers still can achieve immortality.

Ben from Minneapolis, MN

How do you deal with all the negativity from the readers?

I'm naturally a very positive person. I've had a lot of people tell me that.

Garrett from New Knoxville, OH

I remember you mentioning something about the Chiefs playing a lot of "Cover One," which gets pressure on the quarterback but almost seems like it's asking for the big play from Aaron Rodgers.

You got it. All you have to do is win the one-on-ones on the outside, give the quarterback a lane to launch the ball, and the pass might go to the house. I think the Chiefs made it work for two reasons: 1.) They have the personnel to play it. 2.) The Packers hadn't seen a lot of it. They'll be ready for it the next time they see it.

Drew from St. Paul, MN

I noticed Coach McCarthy saying this week that the team will not stay at the hotel before the game like the usual routine. Why do they stay in a hotel when they are in their home city?

It's a way for coaches to control the activities of the team and direct its energies in the critical 24 hours leading up to the game. The night before a game is spent watching tape and in meetings that finalize preparations. The coach will address the team prior to curfew. When the lights go out, the team's focus is very sharp. A long time ago I asked a coach the same question you've just asked, and this is the answer I got: "It got the players away from two o'clock feedings."

Erik from Great Mills, MD

Whatever happened to the "Flex Defense"? This is a copycat league and the "Flex" was very successful, so why didn't teams use it more?

The "Flex" is a read-and-react defense that positions its defensive tackles off the ball. The intent is to provide space for athletic linemen, such as Randy White, the player for whom Tom Landry invented the "Flex," to maneuver. Yes, it was successful, but it came along at a time when defensive football was changing from read-and-react two-gappers to penetrate-and-disrupt gap-control linemen. That's why the days of the "Flex" were short-lived. It was the end of an era, as was the "Stunt 4-3." There haven't been many defensive tackles in the game that could two-gap like White and Joe Greene.

Tom from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Back in the 1960s, I loved the preseason matchup between the defending NFL champs and the college all-stars. Whatever happened to that game? I think, in this day and age, that would be a great game to watch.

It went broke. I covered the last one in 1976. In the third quarter, it started to rain really, really hard, and the players ran off the field and, literally, never came back.

Bryon from Johnstown, OH

You can have an hour-long interview with any player, past or present. Who would it be?

Johnny Unitas. I played in a golf tournament with him right before he died. His right hand was all crippled up and he could barely put it on the club, but everything he hit was solid and right down the middle. I kept thinking to myself, "Yeah, black hightops." Anyhow, I could tell by the conversation that this was a man that had something to say, but he also had the discipline not to say it. I would've loved to have an hour with him to see if I could get inside that head. I sensed pure football knowledge.

Todd from Fitchburg, WI

Ellen: "Clark, what's wrong? It's bigger than you expected? Smaller? What is it?" Clark: "It's a one-year membership in the jelly of the month club." Eddie: "Clark, that's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year."

Right you are, Edward, and thank you, Todd, for allowing me this opportunity to wish all of the "Ask Vic" family Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Festivus or whatever it is you celebrate at this special time of the year when we are all filled with a spirit of kinship. Tonight, "Team Ketchman" WILL watch, whether all team members like it or not, "Christmas Vacation," yes, again, followed by the airing of grievances. This is a special year for my family because it's our first Christmas in Green Bay. Thank you, Packers fans, for allowing me to share in the joy of watching your football team play.

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